Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language

First Advisor

Stephanie Lindemann

Second Advisor

Diane Belcher

Third Advisor

Eric Friginal

Fourth Advisor

YouJin Kim


Institutions of higher education (HEIs) in the United States recruit numerous international graduate students, many of whom serve as teaching assistants. HEIs’ motivations for employing international teaching assistants (ITAs) include not only economic incentives but also humanistic aims of internationalization, for example, increasing cross-cultural cooperation. However, integrating ITAs into the institution, making them welcomed and respected members of the community, has proven difficult. In particular, problems in ITA-student communication have been reported for decades.

I argue that the crux of these integration difficulties lies in how linguistic diversity is approached. Policymakers and researchers usually treat ITAs’ Englishes as the cause of communication difficulties, with the implication that ITAs should more closely conform to norms of ‘native’ English. I propose instead that the primary problem is not linguistic diversity itself but ideological perceptions of other Englishes and unproductive responses to the difficulties that arise in trying to communicate across linguistic difference.

This study examined policies and perceptions related to ITA-student communication at one internationalizing university through document collection, interviews, and classroom observation. I found that, despite its strategic plan calling for preparing students to enter a globalizing world, the institution’s response to ITA-student communication difficulties targets only ITAs’ competencies, mainly by assessing and remediating their language proficiency. Discussions with students and observations of classroom interaction revealed that many students appeared to orient to communication with ITAs in ways that did not help promote successful communication or prepare them to communicate across linguistic difference in a globalizing world. I also found that available ideological stances and strategies for addressing linguistic difference made it difficult for ITAs to be simultaneously liked and respected as instructors.

This study has implications for HEIs seeking to create internationally inclusive communities and prepare their students and other stakeholders for communication across linguistic difference. First, ITA preparation should be reframed so as not to stigmatize ITAs’ Englishes. It should also prepare ITAs to become active agents in socializing students into productive and respectful orientations to linguistic difference. Second, HEIs must more comprehensively seek to confront students’ deficit language ideologies and unproductive responses to communication difficulties.